Turkey: PEN protests mass arrests of journalists and screenwriters

(15 December 2014, London) PEN International, PEN Turkey and English PEN are deeply concerned by the news that five journalists and six screenwriters have been detained as part of a wide-reaching anti-terror probe into the Gülen movement in Turkey. The detained journalists and screenwriters are amongst 31 people who were reportedly taken into custody on 14 December 2014 “on suspicion of involvement in an illegal organisation” following a series of police raids in the cities of Istanbul, Eskişehir and Van. The arrests have come against a backdrop of escalating political tensions between Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the followers of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen. The detained journalists and screenwriters could face lengthy sentences in prison if charges are brought under Turkey’s draconian Anti-Terror Law.

Archive Museum of Turkish Writers Union is to be Vacated


The Literary Archive Museum, which was opened by Turkish Writers’ Union in 2002 under a protocol with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in order to protect and promote the unique values of our literature, is attempted to be vacated.

The protocol for our archive would be renewed every five years. The protocol was to be renewed for a second time when we submitted our “request of renewal” on April 21, 2011.

After this procedure, our Union continued the usual operation of the Archive Museum. However, with a statement dated the 30th of January, 2012, we were demanded to cancel the protocol and vacate the Archive Museum. Our Union’s action for nullity was dismissed by the Administrative Court. The case is appealed.

Over the past decade, our Union has enriched the Archive with the first editions of the books, drafts of the poems and proses in original handwriting, photographs and writing utensils of many authors including Nâzım Hikmet, Şükran Kurdakul, Enver Gökçe, Aziz Nesin, Arif Damar, Melih Cevdet Anday, Cemal Süreya and Asım Bezirci.

We have negotiated the issue of protecting or assigning a new place for the Archive Museum with Ertuğrul Günay, the former Minister of Culture, and Ömer Çelik, the current Minister of Culture, but no answer could be received from the ministers.

World Theatre Day - Theater is under oppression -just like life is


Theatre is condensed life. In Turkey,theatre is under oppression just like life is. As PEN Turkey, we simply cannot accept this situation. The "new normal" is not a democratic normal. We are determined to insist on the goal of a secular and democratic Republic of Turkey.

27 March World Theatre Day is an invitation to liberation.

PEN Turkey Centre

Open Air Gas Chamber

Enemies of nature, Istanbul Park and the goal of a secular and democratic Turkey are attacking peaceful protestors by forming an open air gas chamber!

We strongly protest the inhuman attacks.

PEN Turkey Centre

PEN Int'l condemns investigation against PEN Turkey

As a result of an announcement constituting support for Fazıl Say that we gave as the PEN Board on 3 June [2012], we were called to the prosecutor's office to submit an official statement under Article 301. On 10 January 2013, we submitted an offficial statement. In the announcement that is the subject of the complaint, we said the following:

"As the Turkey Centre of the international writers association PEN, we strongly condemn and meet with consternation the [news] that our esteemed composer and pianist Fazıl Say has been called up to court. The international community has been put on alert in the face of fascist developments in Turkey."

In the official statement we submitted as the board, we outlined that the above words were an expression of thought and a criticism, that they were not intended as being aimed as an insult. We emphasised that the right to criticise, a constitutional and legal right, was being exercised. As a result, it was requested that a decision not to prosecute would be given.

PEN Board

Statement by John Ralston Saul International President PEN International


November 15, 2012 Istanbul

Freedom of expression is never automatic. It is always about concrete actions. These actions are what make it function.
For several years, PEN witnessed the declining number of writers either in prison in Turkey or caught up in endless and personally destructive legal mazes. You cannot blame us for having been encouraged. We were not alone. This improving situation came with increased democratization, better civilian control over the military, and economic development.

Then, abruptly, a year ago, the arrests began again, the pre-trial detentions, the dragged-out trials, the cases suspended in order to leave writers in limbo.

Worse still, we have seen the Anti-Terror Law increasingly used with a lack of rigour. This in turn has led to writers and publishers - who in our carefully researched and considered opinions have nothing to do with terrorism - becoming the unwitting victims of myriad legal traps.
In other words, the law is being used to limit freedom of expression.

PEN Turkey thanks PEN Int'l Delegation for their solidarity and contributions


Dear PEN Int'l Delegation to Turkey on 12-19 November 2012 - i.e. Dear Friends John Ralston Saul, Hori Takeaki, Eric Lax, Haroon Siddiqui, Eugene Schoulgin, Adrianne Clarkson, Marian Botsford Fraser,Larry Siems, Hyam Yared, Heger Anders, Michael Guggenheimer, Michael A. Henry, Sara Whyatt, Jo Glanville, Elnaz Baghlanian, Negar Josephi, Alev Yaman, Erda Halisdemir and Izzy Finkel,

On behalf of PEN Turkey and all the writers, journalists, translators and publishers who are in trouble for struggling in favour of freedom of expression in Turkey, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of your solidarity and contributions.

We are also aware that the Delegation represented the whole PEN Int'l Board and the thousands of other colleagues all around the world who are with us in heart.

Message to Swedish PEN for Mehmed Uzun

Rojbaş, Dear Friends.

We remember and miss our dear member Mehmed Uzun, who was (and is) not only an important master of Kurdish Literature but also of World Literature.

On behalf of PEN Turkey, hoping that the Kurdish Language and Literature will develop freely and be known better in the world, I extend my greetings to his dear wife Zozan Uzun and to all of you. I am grateful to our sister centre Swedish PEN -dear President Ola Larsmo and all the other members- for this activity. Swedish PEN has always been sensitive in terms of human rights.

Tarik Günersel
President of PEN Turkey

PEN Turkey Int’l Short Story Award goes to Aschalew Kebede of Ethiopia

It is our pleasure to announce that the PEN Turkey International Short Story Award has been given to an outstanding author from Ethiopia: Mr. Aschalew Kebede. Born in 1971, Aschalew Kebede has written on the history and culture of Ethiopia as well as stories, novels and articles. He also translates stories from German into Amhara. He gives seminars on creative writing and creative reading.

Kebede has kindly accepted the award: “It is a great honour and pleasure for me to receive this award. In my culture there is a saying: ‘A man would be most pleased when people passionately greet his child.’ What good thing is there in the world other than this? Thank you PEN Turkey.”

The decision was reached after the preliminary research by Turkish PEN Translation & Linguistic Rights Committee led by Chair Prof. Aysu Erden, and the subsequent cooperation of the Ethiopian PEN Board.

As all PEN members know, marketing priorities block a significant amount of good literature. So, in 2007, Turkish PEN decided to present international awards in three genres: Short Story (paying tribute to the 7th century story teller Dede Korkut), Novel (paying tribute to Halide Edip Adıvar, the woman novelist who was the first president of PEN Turkey in 1950), and Poetry (paying tribute to the 13th century humanist poet Yunus Emre). Our goal was (and is) to learn more about literary works in non-dominant languages and to promote them in Turkey in the spirit of PEN Charter.

Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık Become PEN WIPC Members

Ahmet Şık, Nedim Şener and his wife Vecide Şener joined the Turkish PEN Board meeting in Istanbul on 6 April 2012, three weeks after their release.

Nedim Şener’s 8 year-old daughter Defne has begun to add a door and a window to the houses she draws –since her father’s release. “During her father’s imprisonment, for a year, the houses she drew had no doors or windows,” her psychologist told Mr and Mrs Şener.

Members of PEN Turkey since last spring, both Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık have recently been chosen by Danish PEN Centre as Honorary Members. Both journalists have expressed gratitude to PEN International, PEN Turkey, Danish PEN and other sister centres for their solidarity.
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